October 12, 2009
SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES (2009, Blu-ray released September 29, 2009 - MSRP $29.99)
You know I've got a soft spot for these DC Comics animated adaptations. I've given fairly positive reviews to the two previous efforts in the series - Wonder Woman and Green Lantern: First Flight. So you're probably expecting more of the same from my review of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies on Blu-ray disc. And you'd be right! In fact, I think it might be the best of the bunch!
From what I can tell, that's probably not the popular opinion. I got my copy of the Blu-ray disc quite late and so had the opportunity to browse other reviews kicking around internets. While the disc itself would be constantly highly rated, reviewers seemed unanimous in slamming the simplistic story. I felt like the simplicity really worked in this case!
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is essentially a one-hour fight scene. There isn't much character or story. But plenty of excitement. And, at the end of the day, isn't excitement what draws us to a superhero adventure? Here's the setup, in a nutshell - Lex Luthor has swindled his way into becoming the president of the US and declares Superman and Batman public enemies. Villains and heroes alike hunt them down and try to beat the crap out of them. Awesome! That's pretty much all there is to it. But you know what? With such a a short runtime, that's okay. What drags the production down for me is the character designs. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is an adaptation of a DC Comics miniseries (I didn't read it so I can't comment on how faithful the script is to the original Jeph Loeb story.) As such, the filmmakers attempted to mimic the character designs of the comics' artist, Ed McGuinness. To the productions detriment, if you ask me. The designs, while looking a whole hell-of-a-lot like McGuinness' are too chunky and muscled and despite some champion work by Lotto Animation, the characters don't animate very well. Give me the old, simplified Bruce Timm models any day!
The Blu-ray looks fantastic! Really well done. Probably the best looking disc of all the DC Comics adaptations that Warner has released thus far. And, despite the lack of an uncompressed soundtrack, it sounds strong and pretty dynamic! Where the Blu-ray fails for me is in the bonus feature department. Aside from the requisite collection of trailers and six Bruce Timm best-of-Justice-League episode picks (all looking better than ever compressed with the VC-1 codec, I might add), the only extra materials on the disc are a short featurette exploring the relationship between Superman and Batman, and a sit-down dinner with the actor who performs the voice of Batman. Don't get me wrong, what we're given is pretty cool. I can take or leave the featurette but the dinner chat, running almost an hour long, is really great. Just like the Green Lantern: First Flight disc, however, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is sorely lacking in any detail on the production itself! One again, we're robbed of a commentary track, or making-of featurette. Come on, guys! As cool as it is to hear Kevin Conroy chat about his almost twenty years voicing Batman, I'd rather know something specific about the film I just watched. How about an interview with Sam Liu? If this Newsarama interview with the director is any indication, he has a lot to say about the production. What about Stan Berkowitz? Having adapted the comics to screen, he most likely has a few insights to share. Urgh...It's so frustrating to feel like nobody at the studio cares about this end of things anymore. Here's hoping they rethink their position of avoiding production docs and commentaries for next years Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Blu-ray Disc release.
Also on The Bllu-ray Blog: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Blu-ray Disc review
October 3, 2009
The first Yerevan international animation film festival, ReAnimania ’09, kicked off today in Armenia’s capital. The fest began with the screening of Animal Crisis, a Spanish comedy competing in the feature category. While this film’s drawbacks come from the limitations of Flash animation (i.e.. crappy front view walk cycles), it does take the medium away from the cinematically flat and minimal to the world of Warner hurt gags and Ren and Stimpyesque dirtyness. It does so with an Orwellian script and a pleasure in mutilating Disney archetypes: the heroic stallion, the seedy lion and the treacherous Hyena. Think of this film as South Park with animation principals applied throughout. My favorite instant of the film: watching a Flash hippo clap. A never before seen motion; at least by me.
Other highlights from the first day included an intimate interview with Michel Ocelot of Kirikou and Azur et Asmar fame. The conversations with the director set the tone of the festival. When Ocelot was asked why he is interested in making films for children, he replied that he does not think about his audience when starting to work on a film. He only strives to do a good job. Ocelot believes that animation should go in the direction that graphic novels have taken a while back: dealing with issues in a way that audiences from any age group can appreciate. In the mind of the French animation author, "Animation is never just for children."
This statement was concurred by Vrej Kassouny, the interviewer and director of the festival. Kassouny stated one of the main goals of Reanimania is to make its audiences aware that animation does not equal to films for children. Animation is an art form, and like any art form you can work with it in different ways.
With retrospectives on Armenian animation, Bruno Bozzetto and Alexander Shiryaev; the Pitching & Producing for animation and 2D workshops, competitions in feature, short, graduation, TV an educational films; forums and studio showcases, Re-Animania is surely to shed some new light on animation during the next three days. It runs until Oct 6th at Kino Moscow in Yerevan, Armenia.
Find the festival schedule and read about the history of Armenian animation on ReAnimania's site.